WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE?: Cabaret Lounge, Above The Stag
WHEN?: Saturday 29 May 2021 (matinee)
Victoria Wood: As Seen On TV aired on BBC2 on Friday nights at 9 and for Paulus, tonight’s star and host, the beloved episodes offered an opportunity to bond and laugh with his mother and sister in their Kent home.
- Read on for reasons including where and how to see this show later this year and what Sherlock and League Of Gentlemen star Mark Gatiss was doing in this audience
Wood was a woman making it in the male-dominated world of both comedy and television who offered a much-needed female perspective on life but also provided a northern voice in a London-centric media world.
Paulus later offers the theory that Wood’s humour offered ‘a modern Polari’ (meaning a theatrical slang used mainly by homosexuals) and it’s an observation that rings true when illuminating how he and pianist Michael Raulston met at a party (‘I said: ‘Are prawns an aphrodisiac?’ And I heard someone reply: ‘I wouldn’t put it past them.’)
This is so much more than a cabaret performance of some of Wood’s best known songs sung by Paulus and accompanied by Raulston although that is the spine of the show.
The pair litter the performance with stories and interjections incorporating some of the mostly fondly remembered aspects of that ‘modern Polari’ which the LGBTQ+ community took to its heart. We note some of them down and they make little sense out of context but if you were a fan, as we were, they’re probably unforgettable (‘She’s the look of Eva Braun about her.’).
This show wouldn’t work half as well if it wasn’t presented by such a talented singer able to enunciate some real lyrical tongue twisters without losing the content and musicality of what what them funny.
There’s also a real warmth to the presentation and when Paulus explains his own connection to Wood and how she sent him £50 25 years ago when he was a struggling drama student there’s a real sense of bringing home why she was a woman worth admiring and not for all the reasons we’d gone in to see this show for.
Paulus also brings his own humour to bear through Wood’s work and the Cardi B joke (‘not a form of substandard knitwear’) is one you feel Wood would deem worthy of her own set.
Listening to the songs with the perspective of time past, it’s interesting to observe just how much sex and relationship reflections there are. The Ballad Of Barry and Freda with its hilarious lines: ‘Bend me over backwards on my hostess trolley’ and ‘Beat me on the bottom with a Woman’s Weekly’ are probably the best known and make for a suitably upbeat conclusion but it’s others including: ‘Things would never have worked, your idea of foreplay was to take your socks off’ which surprise and delight us.
Paulus and his musical director make for a self-deprecating pair and when they say: ‘It takes two men to do the job of one woman half as well’ we appreciate the sentiment but we wouldn’t quite agree.
We’re sitting 2 rows behind Mark Gatiss (The League Of Gentleman Live again!, BBC1’s Sherlock) and husband Ian Hallard (Closer To Heaven, Above The Stag, The Boys In The Band, Vaudeville and Park Theatre) who appear to be enjoying it as much as we are.
The venue provided a cabaret layout for this show and the audience was socially distanced, seated in bubbles and catered to by table service.
Looking For Me Friend plays dates across England throughout the rest of the year, details below, and if you’re a fan of Wood’s, and we’re currently reading Jasper Rees’ authorised biography Let’s Do It, you might just find you’d go barmy for this.